Can Americans Travel to Cuba? (2022 Update)
“Can Americans travel to Cuba?” is one of the most frequent questions we receive on this website. Take it from an American who travels to Cuba all the time – American travel to Cuba is easier than ever. Despite what many Americans believe to be a full Cuba travel ban, there are many ways to legally travel to Cuba for American citizens.
In fact, traveling to Cuba is quite easy.
While Americans traveling to Cuba need to be aware of the restrictions that the U.S. government imposes – like hotels they’re not allowed to stay at, and restrictions on using debit cards on the island – Cuba is NOT off-limits to Americans!
In this ultimate guide to Cuba travel for Americans, we’re including all the details you’ll need to know to plan your trip to Cuba, plus answering some of the most common questions about Cuba travel safety, Support for the Cuban people, and more.
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Can Americans Travel to Cuba?
For years, U.S.-Cuba travel by citizens of the United States has been restricted in many ways. There is almost nowhere on planet Earth that the United States restricted its own citizens from traveling to in this way, except Cuba.
In 2014, President Obama announced a new way forward in the relationship between the United States and Cuba. While he didn’t completely normalize relations between the two countries, he made a good start. Importantly, he began lifting travel to Cuba restrictions.
Prior to these changes, Cuba travel for Americans was much more challenging, generally requiring Cuba education travel with a group trip or an approved company. Americans also frequently traveled to Cuba through Mexico or Canada to skirt U.S. regulations.
While the subsequent Trump and Biden administrations have made slight changes to Obama’s new policies, they mostly remain intact.
Americans can now travel to Cuba more easily than ever before.
American Travel to Cuba
Importantly, these changes created 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens to visit Cuba without applying for permission from the United States government first.
When an American travels to Cuba, they must simply state the reasons for their trip (usually when purchasing an airline ticket) – by selecting one of these 12 categories.
After this announcement, the majority of Americans were able to plan their own trips to the island for the first time.
While travel for purely “tourism” purposes is not allowed, the Support for the Cuban People category of travel began allowing people to travel as they would to any other country.
By selecting Support for the Cuban People as a purpose of travel, travelers commit to spend money only with small businesses not connected to the Cuban government.
While many continue to ask “can Americans travel to Cuba?” – one of our most frequently asked questions! – the answer is yes, and with these new regulations, it’s easier than ever.
Read More for Travel to Cuba
How Can Americans Travel to Cuba?
Americans can legally travel to Cuba by simply stating their reason for travel – usually when purchasing an airline ticket.
By stating that your purpose of travel is to “Support the Cuban People,” you’re able to travel quite freely, just committing to spend money at small businesses rather than government-run ones.
Americans are allowed to travel to Cuba if the purpose of their trip falls within 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba – below we explain all the details!
The Trump administration chipped away at Obama-era changes to Cuba travel policy and attempted to dissuade Americans from traveling to Cuba.
However, regulations about American travel to Cuba haven’t actually changed all that much, and it’s still quite easy to travel to Cuba – there are just a few more rules to follow when you do.
Some of these changes include:
- American citizens are no longer able to bring rum or cigars back from Cuba ;
- American citizens are now prohibited (by the U.S. government – not the Cuban government) from staying at a variety of hotels in Cuba ;
- Some methods of traveling to Cuba, such as “people to people Cuba ” travel organized tours, and the ability to travel to Cuba by cruise, have been scaled back or eliminated.
Best Hotels and Casas in Havana
Can Americans Fly to Cuba?
Yes – Americans can fly to Cuba! American citizens can fly to Cuba either from the United States directly or from other countries.
Flights to Cuba leave regularly from many of America’s largest cities like Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, and New York.
We frequently get the “can Americans fly to Cuba?” question because when travel to Cuba was more restricted, many Americans used to fly to Cuba through Canada or Mexico as a way to skirt travel restrictions.
However, this is no longer necessary since travel restrictions have loosened in the past decade, this is no longer necessary.
For a period of time during the Trump and Biden administrations, flights to Cuba from the United States were only authorized to fly to Havana, and could not fly to any of Cuba’s other airports.
However, the Biden administration has recently lifted this restriction – airlines are now scheduling new flights between the United States and other Cuban cities, allowing Americans to have more direct access to the rest of the island!
12 Categories of Authorized Travel to Cuba
The 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba are the twelve types of trips that citizens of the U.S. are able to take to Cuba without otherwise requesting permission from the government of the United States.
Importantly, the category of authorized travel you select is the reason you’ll be giving to the United States government for your travel to Cuba.
Cuba will simply consider you a tourist, and won’t limit what you can do in the country as the U.S. does.
- Family visits
- Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and international organizations;
- Journalistic activity;
- Professional research and professional meetings;
- Educational activities;
- Religious activities;
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions;
- Support for the Cuban People ;
- Humanitarian projects;
- Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes;
- Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials;
- Certain export transactions.
When traveling under these categories of approved travel, you don’t need any sort of special visa or permission as long as what you plan to do during your trip follows the guidelines of the category you select.
When you book your flight and accommodation, you may be asked for your reason or purpose of travel to Cuba – you’d simply write “Support for the Cuban People” or whatever category you’re using to travel with. Whenever asked about why you’re traveling, this is the only answer you need to give.
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Support for the Cuban People
The Support for the Cuban People category of travel is the easiest and the most general category of travel to select for your trip.
It allows for any United States citizen to travel to Cuba to do things that support everyday Cubans, rather than the Cuban government.
This means simple things like staying in a rental property like an Airbnb or a boutique hotel owned by a Cuban, eating in restaurants owned by Cubans, and more.
This is stuff that you’d be doing on a trip to Cuba anyways – which is what makes it so easy to travel normally this way.
We wrote an entire guide to the Support for the Cuban People category of travel that dives into all the details about this category, and how to travel under it, so make sure to check it out for more details!
Group Travel to Cuba
Importantly, the current Cuba travel policy does not force American citizens travel to Cuba with a group at all.
While there are groups that travel to Cuba and tout the ease of traveling to Cuba by purchasing a sport on a group trip doing so, it isn’t necessary to travel to Cuba with a group.
As I’ve stated before, it’s generally so easy for Americans to travel to Cuba even with current restrictions that I don’t really think that group travel makes US Cuba travel much easier than it is to go on your own.
Is Cuba Safe for Americans?
Many Americans, even once they realize that they can travel to Cuba, have an impression that it may be unsafe to do so – in my experience, this could not be further from the truth.
I remember during my own first trip to Cuba (prior to meeting my husband!) I wondered whether I should tell people that I was Canadian and whether people would react negatively knowing that I was from the United States. You know, the Cold War tensions, Bay of Pigs, a Cuba travel ban and blockade… tense stuff!
There is no need for any worry – seriously, I haven’t met a single Cuban, ever, who has reacted negatively to learning that I’m from the United States. It has only ever been met with interest in what brought me to Cuba, and curiosity about what I think of Cuba.
Cuba is really working and striving to improve tourism and attract more travelers to Cuba from ALL countries, and it really shows. Americans traveling to Cuba can be assured that they’ll be completely safe, I can promise you that.
What about the government? Will they be watching me and tracking me? Is it safe to travel to Cuba?
This is actually a concern I hear a lot from people thinking about traveling to Cuba – again, the answer is no! If you come to Cuba as a visitor, you won’t be watched or tracked or questioned with doubt about your motives for visiting Cuba.
I chalk up these concerns to how we learn about Cuba in most schools in the United States – mostly only about Fidel Castro and the Cuban Missile Crisis – that’s it! In reality, there is a lot more to Cuba than just that.
What to Pack for Cuba
Check out our Ultimate Cuba Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Cuba and what we never travel without.
Internet Restrictions in Cuba
We get a lot of questions about whether there is internet access in Cuba, and if there is, if it’s safe to use or restricted by the government.
While the internet in Cuba is slower than you may be used to, it is now quite widespread and is pretty easy to use in most places in Cuba now.
While there are some websites blocked in Cuba, they’re mostly news websites like the Miami Herald that have been critical of the Cuban government.
The US Cuba embargo and financial and economic blockade of Cuba means that some companies can’t offer their services to internet users in Cuba (notably, PayPal, but the list changes).
You can easily get around this if you want by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) in Cuba. But, even without a VPN, you can still use the internet in Cuba without too much of a hassle. Make sure to check out our complete guide to using the internet in Cuba for even more details.
Packing Restrictions in Cuba
There are some limitations worth noting about what you can bring into Cuba – for example, you can’t bring drones to Cuba.
Also be careful of devices like walkie-talkies, satellite phones, or GPS devices. Any personal computers, cell phones, cameras, or any other devices you normally travel with.
My brother actually got held up in customs because he had thrown an internet-enabled remote control he used in a university class in his duffel bag and forgot to take it out before heading to Cuba.
They were very confused about it and asked him questions about its use as it isn’t something that you’d generally see a traveler bring to Cuba. In the end, there weren’t any issues.
American Embassy in Cuba
President Obama’s policy changes towards Cuba in 2014 also paved the way for reopening the United States Embassy in Cuba after nearly 60 years.
The American Embassy in Cuba offers emergency services to American citizens traveling in Cuba including assistance with lost passports, registering births abroad, and more.
Located prominently along the Malecón sea wall in central Havana, the American Embassy in Cuba is currently only providing services to American citizens, and has just started providing limited services to Cuban citizens.
Save the address and contact information for the embassy just in case you need it:
U.S. Embassy Havana
Calzada between L & M, Vedado
Phone: (53)(7) 839-4100
Best Hotels and Casas in Havana
Travel to Cuba Restrictions
The limitations that the United States places on Americans traveling to Cuba are something to be aware of – they require an extra level of planning before you head to Cuba – but if you know what to expect they’re nothing to worry about.
Money in Cuba
Many people ask – why can’t Americans go to Cuba? While Americans CAN travel to Cuba, the primary Cuba travel restriction for Americans is accessing money while traveling – because of America’s nearly 60-year-old US Cuba embargo, American debit cards and credit cards will not work on the island as they do for those traveling from any other country.
That means you need to plan ahead and bring the money you’ll need for your trip with you in cash.
You can bring American dollars and convert them into Cuban pesos once you arrive in Cuba.
Hotels in Cuba
The limitations placed on US Cuba travel by the Trump Administration also include a list of hotels that American travelers are not allowed to stay at during their trip to Cuba. You can check out the full list here.
Some newspapers and websites have been incorrectly reporting that Americans are not allowed to stay in any hotel in Cuba, but this is not actually the case. Americans are just prohibited from staying in certain hotels that are owned entirely or partially by the Cuban government.
There are many boutique hotels with private ownership where Americans are still able to stay, plus private rentals called “casas particulares” or private home rentals like Airbnbs.
There are tons of options from staying in a spare room in someone’s apartment all the way to staying in a massive, private colonial mansion with a pool. There is a casa particular for every traveler.
If you’re looking for ideas of where to stay in Havana, check out our complete accommodation guide to Havana.
Accommodations in Havana
Things To Do in Cuba
There is so much to do in Cuba – much more than laying on the beach and riding in old, classic American cars.
While Americans traveling to Cuba under the Support for the Cuban People category of travel need to make sure that they’re spending money with small businesses rather than government entities while in Cuba, there is plenty to do.
Anything from taking a guided tour of Havana to eating at a restaurant operated as a small business or taking salsa classes are ways to enjoy Cuba. A favorite recommendation is also taking a mixology class – you can learn how to make the classic mojito and daiquiri!
For more travel ideas, we put together a guide to the top ten activities in Cuba for a Support for the Cuban People trip with our favorite ideas for a fantastic trip!
We made a super-detailed travel guide to Cuba with all of our favorite recommendations and highlights that goes much more in-depth about how to plan the BEST travel adventure in Cuba. Make sure to check it out for all the details you’ll need!
Can I go to the US if I’ve been to Cuba?
Cuba is one of the most vibrant destinations in the Caribbean. You can go to soak up the history, or spend your days lounging on the beach then salsa dancing the night away, all with a mojito or two in hand. The UK places no restrictions on entering Cuba — and it’s easy enough to get to as a tourist. However, you may experience issues getting into the US after you visit, even on transit — unless you’re travelling under a visa instead of the usual Esta. Here’s what you should know before booking a Cuba or US trip.
Main photo: travellers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (Alamy)
What’s the background?
The frosty relationship between Cuba and the US is long and complicated but can be traced back to 1959, when Fidel Castro came to power. By establishing the country as a socialist state, strengthening its ties with the Soviet Union, and introducing tariffs against US imports, Castro distanced Cuba from the US. In the context of the Cold War, these actions ultimately led to a trade embargo being imposed on the country by President Kennedy — one that’s remained in place since.
Relations thawed somewhat under President Obama, with cruise ships and regular flights restarting between the two nations. US travellers were also able to visit the Caribbean island for tourism purposes for the first time. But under President Trump, the US policy toward Cuba was reversed, meaning the ban on travel to Cuba for tourism purposes was reinstated. While President Biden has yet to formally abandon the sanctions against Cuba, moves have been made to ease travel between the two nations in certain circumstances.
The Church and Monastery of Saint Francis in Trinidad, Cuba (Getty Images)
I’ve been to Cuba, am I barred from the US?
The UK doesn’t have any sanctions against Cuba but British passport holders are still affected by US policy if they want to travel there after visiting Cuba. This is because Cuba is currently on the US’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list. And under the terms of the Esta (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), you cannot enter the US using an existing Esta if you’ve previously visited a country on this list, or apply for a new Esta again. This ban includes for transit, where you’re flying onto another country.
You’re not barred from entering the US altogether. But instead of a $21 Esta, you’ll have to apply for a visa through the US embassy, which will cost you a hefty £141.
Could other countries cause problems for visiting the US?
There are currently three other countries on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list: North Korea, Iran and Syria. If you’ve visited any of these countries in the past, you’ll need to apply for a tourist visa to enter the US.
Travel To Cuba With A US Passport: 2022 Rules
Can you travel to Cuba with an American passport? Yes! But there are some things Americans should know.
We put together this guide to help make travel to Cuba easy. Below, check out our eight easy steps for Americans traveling to Cuba.
Or, better yet, reach out to a Cuban local who can answer your questions.
“Linelly helped us beyond anything we could’ve planned ourselves. Everything she suggested for us was spot-on, and I feel we got the best experience by following a local’s guidance.”
Overview: Traveling to Cuba With a US Passport
You can fly from your hometown airport to Cuba on a major airline with less than two stops on the journey. You can even go non-stop from New York-JFK, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and a few other cities.
(You could also travel via Mexico or Canada, as Americans once did when travel to Cuba was forbidden, but it’s no longer necessary.)
The Cuban government allows Americans to visit their country. The restrictions on reasons for travel and where you can spend money are all American rules. So, regardless of American regulations, your US passport is valid in Cuba.
Officials in Cuba and in the US usually don’t ask many questions, so take a deep breath and get excited about traveling to Cuba.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind About Your Passport
- You will need a full-sized passport to travel to Cuba. The Passport Card is not sufficient.
- It’s wise to make sure your passport will not expire for at least six months after the date of your trip to Cuba. Cuban officials do not enforce this rule, but some airlines and cruise lines do. If you’re traveling to Cuba on a cruise, make sure to read this information on Cuba shore excursions.
- You might get a passport stamp entering or leaving Cuba, or you might not. Don’t worry about it unless you specifically want a stamp as a souvenir, in that case, if you don’t get one—ask!
Read on to find out about the other steps you must follow and legalities you need to keep in mind when you plan a trip to Cuba with a US passport.
#1: Declare a Valid Travel Category
A street in Havana | Diego Gennaro/Unsplash
US travelers to Cuba must declare a travel category before departure. There are twelve categories to choose from and Americans can visit Cuba independently with eleven of them. (You can find a full outline in our guide to Everything You Need to Know About the New Cuba Travel Policy.)
The bottom line is: the travel category is self-declared. There’s no license to apply for or carry. You agree to the category and are bound by its rules on the honor system. Our Cuban travel experts can help you choose the best travel category for your trip based on the activities you’d like to do in Cuba.
Let’s face it. People want different things when they travel. Rather than spending hours sifting through blogs and top 10 lists written by people who may have totally different interests than you, why not start by sharing a little about what’s important to you when exploring a new destination?
Select your travel preferences below and let a local take it from there. Your personalized guidebook to Cuba is just a few clicks away.
#2: Get a Tourist Card
The Cuban government requires travelers from most countries, including the US, to have a Cuban Tourist Card (sometimes called a Cuba Visa) in order to enter the country. It’s easy to obtain one online or through your airline itself (usually at the airport).
For detailed instructions on getting a Tourist Card, review our guide The Easiest Way to Get a Cuban Visa.
Or read up on specific instructions for how to get a Tourist Card through specific airlines:
#3: Get Valid Health Insurance
Man playing music in Havana | Jessica Knowlden/Unsplash
Travelers to Cuba are required to have Cuban health insurance. The easiest way to get it is at the airport in Havana. There will be a booth before Customs where you can purchase a policy for just a few dollars per travel day.
#4: Prepare an Itinerary
An itinerary is the best way for you to make sure you stick to a full-time schedule of approved activities within your travel category. Full-time is described as six hours per day on weekdays. If you’re visiting independent museums, talking with local artists in their galleries, or getting to know your casa particular hosts full-time, then you can spend Saturday afternoon at the beach or taking an independent tour of Havana without worrying.
Just like having a schedule at work helps you stay on track, an itinerary for Cuba can help you stay on track in your travel category.
#5: Don’t Spend Money Anywhere on the Restricted List
The Restricted List is one of the most recent rules released regarding travel to Cuba on November 9, 2017. It is maintained by the US State Department and lists organization with connections to the Cuban military. Americans are not allowed to spend money at any business on this list. You cannot stay at any of these hotels, eat at any of these restaurants, or work with any of these travel companies.
#6: Keep Your Receipts and Other Records
The US government is allowed to ask you for receipts and records from your trip to Cuba for up to five years. Keep all of these on file in the unlikely event you’re asked for them.
#7: Check The Latest COVID-19 News
Before you go anywhere these days, it’s a good idea to check and see what kind of entry requirements your destination has for travelers. Today, Cuba is open for travel — even for Americans regardless of vaccination status. Anyone traveling to Cuba just has to keep a couple of things in mind.
- A Health Declaration Form is required.
- Masks are required on public transportation and in healthcare settings.
- All travelers are subject to temperature screening upon arrival.
- Travelers may be selected at random for COVID testing upon arrival.
Curious to learn more about the history of Cuba travel? Check out Yesterday in Travel, a podcast sponsored by ViaHero! One recent show covered President Obama’s 2016 trip to Havana and what it meant for American travelers:
You can download more episodes on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
#8: Enjoy Your Trip
That’s all you have to do to travel to Cuba with a US passport. Figure out a few formalities in advance and keep your records, but otherwise, just enjoy getting to know the Cuban culture.
We know that this can all feel overwhelming. That’s why we recommend talking with a local in Cuba.
Not only can they answer your questions on which boxes you need to check before your trip, but they can also help plan an exciting, immersive itinerary in their home country.
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.